Don’t Leave Women’s Health to Chance in Sex-Based Research
Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)
Since 1993, the National Institute of Health Revitalization Act has required the inclusion of women and minorities in clinical trials funded by the NIH. While women have been included in more trials since then, one major discrepancy that has been pointed out is the lack of distinction between the genders in clinical trial outcomes. This month, Brigham and Women’s Hospital released Sex-Specific Medical Research: Why Women’s Health Can’t Wait. This report focuses on the importance of sex-specific research. It makes the claim that ignoring sex differences in the analysis of data and the reporting of research outcomes can affect the integrity and quality of medicine. The action plan in the report includes holding federal agencies accountable, promoting transparency, expanding sex-based research requirements, and adopting new clinical practices and training curricula.
I believe that one of the most important aspects is the call to action: don’t leave women’s health to chance. This call to action echoes the current culture of personalized medicine. This call to action should not only be directed at researchers or IRBs. It must include and be heard by research participants, as well. Women need to know the type of research they are participating in, if there is any aspect that focuses on sex-based research, and whether or not sex differences are being taken into account. This is not to say that they cannot participant if there is not this aspect, but rather they should ask the question and then decide whether or not to move forward with the research. By having participants consistently asking questions regarding sex-based research, the importance of this issue will be reinforced and, hopefully, be taken more seriously and considered in future clinical trials.